IT began as a dare dreamed up in the pub, but a Hampshire man has groomed a tongue-in-cheek challenge into a moving tribute to his late grandmother.

Sean Taylor was devastated when gran June Moran was diagnosed with dementia last year. But he pledged to highlight the debilitating condition by nurturing his whiskers for a year to raise money for charity.

Sadly she died just two months after he began growing his facial hair last September.

Now, just weeks from completing his challenge, he urged others to help tackle the illness affecting the country’s ageing population.

Sean, 27, from Bitterne, said: “The idea came from a challenge three months ago.

“I’d grown a beard for a month so I thought I would extend it to a year as my hair grows quickly.

“For the first month it was so uncomfortable I wanted to scratch my face off.

“Now I get so many people with beards themselves saying how impressive it is.

“There’s a lot of beard envy and people have tried to braid it.”

Since then he has raised nearly £700 for the Dementia Care charity and two months ago even met his current girlfriend who was impressed with his fantastic fuzz.

Sean, who works as a technician, hailed his grandmother, who lived in West End, as the “anchor” in the family and added: “So many people are affected by dementia now and in the end it feels like you watch them die twice as you lose the person’s mind first and then their body.”

But he said she was supportive of his fundraising in her final weeks and added: “It was something she could see happening over time and she thought it was an amazing idea.”

He has yet to decide whether he will shave or continue to grow the beard when the September 1 deadline passes, saying: “I fear I’m going to have a tan line due to all the sun!”

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